Wednesday, September 26, 2007

FINOLA - Parts 1 - 13


Main Characters

Lovee and Ireland - a couple who take Finola in
Ray - the store clerk Finola meets after running away from Lovee/Ireland
Pavarotti - A mysterious man who lives in Waterloo - a town he built himself
Posh - the fake name Finola gave Ray
Tommy - a resident of Waterloo
Panorama Pendegrass - Finola's Mom ???

Pickles Panorama Pendegrass - Finola's GrandMa ???

Part One

Finola could not understand why she had been assigned the task of setting out all the folding chairs. Was it because she was the ugly duckling of the group? Perhaps it was due to the fact that the house mother often referred to her as a flibberty-gibbet. Such an unfair assessment! So what if she was a pathological liar. Her lies were harmless – she had lied about knowing what Manifest Destiny meant, she had lied about seeing the grackles build their nest. Were white lies dangerous? Finola viewed lying as an alternative life style, much like role playing and far more entertaining than one more game of solitaire. It certainly wasn’t meant to cause strife in the house; she shouldn’t be held responsible for the deep sense of polarization that had developed among her housemates. She was being punished for a power she didn’t possess. Well she would show them. Finola reached into the deep pocket of her summer frock and fondled the bumpy texture of the hand grenade. What an explosive recital this would be!

Part Two

The further away from the school she got the better Finola felt. If the old jalopy she had stolen would just go faster than a tricycle she’d feel fabulous in no time. Finola giggled to herself, that silver-tongued devil Mr. Bugley thought he had a strangle-hold on being clever. Hah! It had taken her no more than a moment to get his car keys away from him. Now here she was, well on her way to the mountains. She had a brochure for Dormancy Estates and a road map. Once she found the Abraham Lincoln Expressway it would be an easy trip. The estates had been abandoned years ago and Finola was sure she could stay there for days without being found.

A soft summer breeze wafted in through the open windows. It smelled of lilacs. Such an improvement over the tiny room she had shared with Adele the Arian Aristocrat. Stupid, silly bitch; and her miserable old cat Space Cadet! What a pair they were. Adele had never cleaned Spacey’s cat litter and poor Finola drifted off to sleep each night with the smell of cat piss permeating her nostrils. Lilacs were certainly an improvement. Having never driven before it came as a revelation to Finola that if she switched gears the car would go faster. She was having a hard time keeping her foot flat on the gas pedal. The seat was stuck so far back, it appeared to have a curtain rod or a tripod wedged against it from the back to keep it upright.

Speed was crucial to Finola now. She needed to put distance between her and the hand grenade she had dropped into the garbage can by the school’s entrance. In her confused anxious state Finola could not remember if she had pulled the pin.

Part 3

Panorama Pendegrass could barely hear the voice on the other end of her cell phone. The music in the seedy Vegas bar was far too loud and the mysterious stranger sitting across from her was seriously limiting her ability to concentrate. He sat very still, his face hooded in shadow, all the while his eyes appearing to be in perpetual motion.

“Can you hear me now?” Finola shouted into the phone. She had hoped finding the cell phone would come in handy but the parallel bars of a signal were fading and she was inexperienced regarding its operation. Spread out around her were the fragmentary clues into her childhood. A sympathetic clerk at the school had allowed her a few moments to copy what she could from the elephantine mass of papers that constituted her permanent record. Finola felt a wave of gratitude toward the clerk; so few people had ever been kind to her. She pushed the files away and found last week’s copy of ‘The Puget Sound Gazette’. Her face was plastered across the front page. Finola’s mind became fuzzy again as she scanned the news story. The Headmistress was quoted as calling her a “secretive child”. The shrink brought in to profile her gave the press a certain diagnosis of “manic depressive” with “tendencies toward fantasy and violence”. Finola agreed with the fantasy part, real life was unbearable, what was there to turn to if not fantasy? She was confused about the violence. The hand grenade had been a prop from last year’s school play. Carrying it had given her a sense of power and control. Once she left the school grounds she no longer needed it.

Finola grew tired of reading about herself. Her filet of sole TV dinner was getting cold and she didn’t like using the oven. She wasn’t sure how it could still be working and wasn’t eager to press her luck. She performed her nightly routine. She drew the curtains to make sure not a sliver of light could be seen from the road. She lit the candles and double checked that the door was locked. It was only then that she could settle down and continue reading ‘The Color Purple’. She really liked the Oprah character.

Part Four

The day started with the sound of church bells and pouring rain. Finola was suffering from a bad case of cabin fever; she had been at Dormancy Estates for over a week and she had to get out. In addition to the anxiety of being cooped up she had practical concerns. She needed to consider a new location and she needed supplies. Since it was risky to stay and risky to leave she decided leaving at least opened up new options.

In her boredom Finola had used all of the newspapers she found in elaborate origami projects. She loved the symmetrical lines she had created but she needed to research surrounding towns. She gouged her way through the twists and turns of her creations looking for clues into her next steps. She passed an ad for wedding dresses and her eyes rested for a moment on the photo of a huge English Mastiff available for adoption. A traveling companion would be fun and she loved dogs but how would she feed him? Unless they both dined on Gravy Train another mouth to feed just wasn’t possible.

Stonepoint Stock Car Races – free admission before noon. Stay all day. Eat, drink, and be merry. “That’s it!” Finola told the old house, “I’m going to the races”.

By the time Finola tried to get the stolen jalopy out of hiding the rain had stopped. Being a novice at parallel parking she had pulled the car as far up against the house as she could and had covered it with what she thought was Spanish Moss. “Please sweet luscious car, please start” she pleaded. She turned the ignition again – and again – and again. “You miserable old pile of junk” she screamed in frustration, “you’re such a turkey, a lemming, a lemon – that’s it, you’re such a lemon!” Her teary gaze turned to the ATV sitting in the open shed. It was rusty and dirty and sported an odd little license plate that read ‘Amphibian Asshat’. “I can’t take that on the main road” she muttered as she flooded the jalopy’s engine; “but I can take it along the back roads and find a better ride”.

Finola reminded herself that she was, as one of the few positive notes in her permanent record suggested, “A girl of immense fortitude”. The worst case scenario was that she would walk to Stonepoint. She had abandoned the ATV about a mile back and the prognosis for finding a new vehicle was grim. “Maybe I’m just getting tired” she mumbled to herself. The cardboard box full of her meager possessions was getting heavy and the early morning sun was very bright and hot. She decided to rest a bit and settled down under a huge tree, the cool ground felt wonderful. “Wouldn’t it be magnificent if a water fountain would spring up right here” Finola whispered to the tree.

“And if you’re goin’ to San Francisco, be sure to wear some ostrich feathers there”. Finola sat bolt upright. “It’s flowers in your hair” said a sweet female voice. “I know” the singing voice said, “but I’ve been browsing in the liquor cabinet and you know what happens when I go browsing”. The sweet female voice had an even kinder sounding laugh. Finola struggled to decide if she was awake or dreaming. The shadows around the tree were long; the sun was not nearly as bright. “Oh crap”, she said out loud and immediately covered her mouth with her shaking hand. She had to get out of there before these people discovered her.

“Are you reading the partnership papers?” sweet voice asked. There was silence. “Honey?” More silence. Finola hoped that meant they were going inside, wherever inside was, she hadn’t noticed any homes. How could she be so careless! “Hey babe, the papers need to be signed by Monday”. Finola heard singing man chuckle. “I know, it’s only Saturday, so much can change by Monday”. Finola struggled to quietly pick up her belongings, every sound seemed exaggerated. “Damn!” shouted sweet voice. Finola nearly fainted. “I dropped the laundry detergent on my toe, why do we need to buy everything in the ganormous size?” Another deep melodic chuckle from singing voice, “Oh darlin’ you know I specialize in the meat and marginalia of American economics”. Sweet voice tried to sound annoyed. “I don’t know anything about economics dear, especially its meaty genitalia, all I know is nobody needs this much detergent and what the hell is the deal with a case of Hamburger Helper? We don’t eat meat”. Finola felt herself relax as she followed their banter. They sounded so nice, so loving. “Hamburger Helper needs meat!?” singing voice sounded so perplexed that Finola had to stifle a giggle. “I thought it was for folks who need help avoiding hamburger; you know my longitudinal thought waves get all screwed up at Sam’s Club”. Finola tried to balance her cardboard box and tiptoe at the same time. As comforting as hearing other people was she could not let herself be discovered. She moved quickly and quietly, tree to tree, until she came to a clearing. Now what, she despaired; if she could see sweet voice and singing voice then they could see her.

Part 5

Ireland Silversmith stood in the tiny window of the giant luxury RV. As much as she adored traveling with the love of her life cooking in one of these things was a challenge. She had to move the spicy buffalo wings over to the sofa in order to have enough room to season the mashed potatoes. Thank goodness the RV was big enough to hold all the furniture she required to be functional and comfortable.

“Lovee, are you out there?” Ireland was positive she had seen his shadow pass between two trees a few feet from their camp ground. “Lovee, don’t make me keep bellowing like a fog horn” Ireland tried not to be annoyed; she didn’t want to have an argument right before dinner. Her husband was a good man. He worked hard, always put her first and was exceptionally kind. Ireland had never before known anyone so complex – he was an accountant but hardly a pencil pusher, he was a book worm who also delighted in racing around the narrow streets of their home town in his little red roadster. The night they met he had nearly run her over. Ireland chuckled at the thought of how that evening started with her streaking across the road fearing for her life and ended with Lovee reading T.S. Eliot to her at a small cafĂ©. Later that night they walked along the river and then posed for their photograph at a little booth. That photo leaned against the window frame facing Ireland right now.

“Lovee, it’s almost time to eat, I …” Ireland stopped dead in her tracks. Lovee was walking across the clearing towards her carrying a cardboard box. Beside him was a young woman who looked frightened and angry. “Hey darlin’ do we have enough wings for three?” Ireland had to laugh at how matter of fact Lovee was. Nothing daunted him. “Ireland, remember when the police stopped us on the main road, claimed to be doing a routine follow-up. Well I think I found the follow-up” The young woman spoke for the first time. “I just need to get to Stonepoint” she said angrily. “My car broke down but I’m pretty sure I can get there on foot”. Lovee laughed. “On foot, really child what are you thinking, Stonepoint is miles and miles from here, and that’s as the crow flies. It’s even farther away for little feet like yours”.

Finola was not pleased with this development but she was hungry.

Part 6

Finola sat through dinner with “them” feeling as though she was in a thicket of thorns. She had a ghastly stress headache and more than a vague sense of discomfort; it continuously struck her how precarious her situation was. Finola felt she had convinced Lovee and his wife that she was not wanted by the police. The wife seemed very kind and gentle, actually they both did but the husband also seemed suspicious.

“You look uncomfortable” Lovee said, making Finola jump out of her thoughts. “I hope you like the food” Ireland said, “we don’t exactly entertain in the lap of luxury but we try our best”. Finola smiled at Ireland, she really liked her. She knew it was a huge generalization but Ireland was the epitome of ‘Southern hospitality”. It was Finola’s life long ambition to travel the world and the southern states had always been at the top of her list. Finola was just about to tell Ireland the wings and mashed potatoes were great when Lovee bellowed “look at that yellow-bellied sapsucker go!” Both Finola and Ireland looked in the direction of Lovee’s outstretched arm. “I don’t see a sapsucker dear” Ireland said quietly. Finola giggled at how patient Ireland was with Lovee. “All I see is a puff of yellow feathers, could be any number of birds”. Lovee insisted it was a sapsucker as Finola continued to giggle at both of them, she especially liked the way Lovee said sapsucker. Finally Ireland gave in. “OK it’s a sapsucker, in fact after dinner why don’t we all go search for its hole – perhaps there will be enough excrement for DNA testing”. Lovee’s laugh was deep and made Finola feel better about him. “My wife’s wit is a bit like drinking quinine” he told Finola, “you know it has good intentions but it still goes down bitter”. Ireland smiled at her husband as she cleared away the dinner dishes.

Finola joined Ireland inside the RV while Lovee strolled near the woods. Ireland watched her husband from the window and smiled sweetly. He was in the Marines you know” she said – partly to herself and partly to Finola. “I know he was a sergeant I’m just not sure what kind – Master or First or Gunnery Sergeant I think – maybe all three”. Once again the sound of Ireland’s laugh calmed Finola. “He comes off as rather gruff doesn’t he?” Finola wasn’t sure if she was supposed to answer. “He’s such an abnormality within his family” Ireland went on. “They’re all so hateful and careless with life, I’m glad we don’t live near them anymore”. Last time we saw any of them was when Lovee’s youngest brother was awarded the Medal of Honor. A shame it had to be posthumous, he was killed in Iraq, I’ll never understand why he went there at his age”. To get away from the rest of them I suppose, and to try and keep the young ones alive I’m sure, he always said they’re not trained enough or equipped right. I’m so glad Lovee stayed with me”.

“Are you ready to go looking for sapsuckers?” Lovee called. Ireland and Finola looked at each other and laughed. “I can’t believe how I went on” Ireland said. “I guess I sounded like a rambling old woman”. Finola assured Ireland that she hadn’t been rambling and she sure wasn’t old. Ireland looked pleased. They joined Lovee outside bringing coffee and cake with them. “So Finola” Lovee looked her in the eyes. “I think we should go find your abandoned car tomorrow”. Finola told him it wasn’t worth the trip, the car was old, a piece of junk really. “Nonsense” Lovee responded. “We’ll find the car and sell it, even if just for parts” Finola felt the panic building up again. She imagined herself admitting that the car had been stolen as she said “the car’s not in my name, it’s my mother’s car. I don’t think she’d want me selling it, I don’t think you’re allowed to sell someone else’s car”. Lovee told Finola not to worry. They would find all the paperwork and he’d put together a bill of sale.

“Let’s enjoy the rest of the evening” Ireland said. “Tomorrow we’ll call Finola’s mother and then set off looking for the car – and sapsuckers.”

Part 7

Finola had decided to forgo the Stock Car Races and just settle for getting to the closest town. She wasn’t prone to being melodramatic but a part of her did feel she’d be better off dead. It had been hard to leave Ireland and Lovee in the middle of the night. While she felt she could trust them Lovee had been explicit about his desire to find her car. As good an actress as Finola was it was dubious that she could compensate for Lovee’s determination by spinning one more tale. Their evening together had ended with Finola pretending to send a text message to her Mother telling her where she was and that her car had broken down. It had taken all her might to use the dead cell phone she’d been carrying around in front of Lovee. Each time he moved closer her anxiety doubled, her fear tripled and her sense of hopelessness quadrupled. Finola had to laugh at herself, quadrupled was one of her favorite words. She loved the idea of double being doubled plus she had a thing for words that started with the letter ‘Q’. Quicksand she thought – that’s what I’m treading on – quicksand.

Part 8

It was easier to move quickly without the cardboard box. Finola had taken out the bare necessities along with anything that gave away her identity and shoved it all into a large shopping bag. Ireland had a ton of them in the kitchen cabinet. She had set out the moment she heard Lovee begin to snore. Since her cot was outside it had been easy to get away without making a sound.

It was just beginning to get light when Finola found herself on a main road. Since she wasn’t sure where she was and she had no idea where the next town, any town, might be she decided to stay on the road. She knew it was dangerous, a police car could appear at any moment but she also knew she couldn’t wander the woods forever. What if Lovee called the police? What if they decided to come looking for her? She needed to get a car and get as far away as possible.

The sun was getting hot and Finola was exhausted when she got to the small gas station and general store. It was right there at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, nothing behind it but road and nothing ahead but more road. “Welcome to Shangri-La” the clerk said. “Need your car filled up?” “Uh, no” Finola muttered. She felt barely capable of a monosyllabic exchange; all the lies and stories were catching up with her. “You came on foot!?” the clerk seemed shocked. “It must be 100 degrees out there, how about a cooling elixir?” Finola thought he meant a cocktail but a Dr. Pepper appeared on the counter. She was just about to say she didn’t have much money when there was a huge crash in the back room. The clerk raised his middle finger to the heavens and let out a string of cuss words, Finola was impressed.

Finola and the clerk stared at each other for several moments. The loud noises from the back had stopped as suddenly as they had started and there was nothing left but a heavy silence. “You have a calm deposition” the clerk told Finola, finally breaking the stillness. “I think you mean disposition” she replied. “And smart too!” he chuckled. “Sorry the Bozo Boys frightened you; they’re working on their sound board. They think they have a band, Band of Brothers they call themselves”. Finola sat down at the counter facing the clerk, her mind racing with possible scenarios she could invent to explain her car-less appearance here in the middle of nowhere. The clerk handed the soda pop over and smiled. “So my new friend, let’s start off simple. What’s your name?”

“My name is Posh” Finola replied as she took a long cool sip from the bottle. “I was on my way to Vegas when I was car-jacked”.

Part Nine

Finola only half listened to the insipid yet playful banter the store clerk was attempting to engage her in. She quickly realized that as long as she giggled every few words he was content to keep on with what Finola assumed was his version of flirting. This gave her time to create her new persona. Where the hell had the name Posh come from? The impossibility of her carrying off a name like that; she was bewildered by the workings of her own mind. She supposed she had heard the name mentioned back at school. She vaguely remembered some British celebrity, an anorexic with the air of a barracuda. Finola thought she might be the lead singer in that girl band ‘Juxtapose’ or was it ‘Nightshade’? Her roommate had always told her she was culturally stunted.

Finola’s automatic giggling must have begun to sound hollow to the store clerk. He suddenly stopped talking and asked if she wanted another soda. Finola said yes, but she’d prefer a glass with some ice. Anything to make him move back a bit, he had chewing gum stuck in his braces and was in general difficult to look at. He grabbed a class and swooped it into the ice bucket. He popped open a bottle of root beer and poured with what Finola assumed was his attempt at a bartender’s flourish. Too bad they were sitting in the middle of a dump in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve been talking about myself all afternoon” the clerk said as he handed Finola her drink. “You must be bored by my stories, I haven’t really done much with my life, seems like I’ve worked here since the beginning of time”. Finola’s frustration with her current situation was growing exponentially. Once the small talk ended people always wanted to delve into her life. Where was she from, where was she going, why was she alone. All valid questions that required careful thought; she had to stop making things up on the fly. It only made her head hurt trying to remember all the lies. If people would simply leave her alone she could get her hands on a car and get away. This isolated setting was dangerous; she wanted a place where she could disappear in the crowd.

“So” the clerk said loudly, “a penny for your thoughts Posh”. “I really don’t want to bother you with my problems” Finola said timidly, “my life is such a mess, you’re better off not getting involved”. The look of concern on the clerk’s face made Finola feel guilty. She hated using people; she knew all too well how that felt. “I’d really like to help” the clerk told her, “why don’t you tell me what’s going on”.

Finola took a deep breath. “It’s a complicated story” she started, “I left school to spend some time with my parents. They had rented a RV and we were going to travel the coast, maybe go to the stock car races at Stonepoint”. The clerk was fascinated. “Sounds like a great plan” he smiled, “what happened?” Finola put on her best tragic face. “It’s really a wild story” she started, “My Father raises exotic quadrupeds, some of them are very dangerous. It’s illegal you know but we’ve never had any trouble until …” Finola drifted off and forced a tear into her eye. “Until what?” the clerk asked. “Until one of them bit me! It was awful, just a tiny bite but a fragment of saliva made its way into the wound and now I’m afraid I may be very, very sick”. The look on the clerk’s face was one of utter devastation. “I’m so exhausted and confused and afraid” Finola continued. “I can’t even remember the name of the medical center I have to get to. I just know it’s in the next city. It’s the only place where they do the kind of hemoglobin test I need”.

The store clerk assured Finola that he knew exactly which medical center she was referring to. As soon as one of the guys in the back could relieve him he’d get his car and take her there. Finola took a deep breath and smiled at the clerk. She was going to rest now and let Posh do all the work.

Part 10

“You look like the Queen of the Nile” Ray told Finola. The poor store clerk was transfixed by the sight of Finola perched on the seat back of his old convertible. They were moving so slowly that Finola felt secure and kept changing poses. Now she was seated in what she assumed was a swami pose. She hoped to keep Ray pacified by constantly smiling at him and addressing him with the sexiest voice inflection she could come up with. The truth was his toothy grin was nauseating and his endless grammatical errors were annoying. To add insult to injury his convertible had lost its battle with the ravages of time and they were moving like a turtle. Finola was impatient for the glamorous part of her life to begin.

Finola plopped back down into the seat and asked Ray when they might be moving out of the industrial part of the county and into more pleasant surroundings. “We’ll be coming into Waterloo soon” he responded. “It’s a nice little town and ought to be a good place to stop”. “And after Waterloo?” she asked. “How long to the Medical Center?” Ray’s face clouded over with concern. “Are you feeling sick? You seemed fine a minute before”. “I’m worried about my swollen ankles” she told Ray, “it’s a sure sign of impending pneumonia”. Ray’s head nodded in agreement like a demented pogo stick. Finola stifled a laugh. Lord he was the most feminized boy she had ever met! Not that she knew that many boys.

“We could cut across the old evacuation route” Ray told Finola as he chuckled. “The locals call it Bovine Boulevard; the old slaughterhouse is shut down now”. A vision of mountains of maggots feasting on discarded cow parts crossed Finola’s mind and she said no, no. “I like the idea of stopping in Waterloo” she said as she touched Ray’s arm. “I’m feeling fine for now so let’s enjoy the trip”.

Finola was still half asleep when she heard the trunk of the car squeak open. She sat up and saw they were parked behind a large stone building. She jumped out and went to the back. Ray was rifling through a pillowcase full of stuff. “My car version of a wall safe” he told Finola. “A pillowcase isn’t very safe” Finola said sharply. “I know!” For the first time since they met Ray seemed bothered by Finola. She cursed her short temper and smiled at Ray. “I’m just worried that you might lose all your belongings”. “You’re sweet” Ray said, all was forgiven in the blink of Finola’s eyes. “I have a locked tin box for my money and this quilt has a huge thermal pocket for some cold beers. What more do I need?” You need a clue Finola thought as she grabbed Ray’s hand. “So how much farther to Waterloo?” “We’re here” Ray shouted out loud. “You’re going to love this place”.

Finola stood and stared at the huge stone building. It looked like several structures had been pushed together and covered in old sun baked stones. “I thought Waterloo was a town?” “It is” Ray told her. “Out here all you need is two people and a postal code and you’re a town. Come to the front, I can’t wait for you to see this place”.

A huge potter’s wheel was spinning in the sun as Ray and Finola rounded the corner of the building. It caught beams of sunlight and seemed to toss them back to the sky. Finola approached the wheel to see what made it spin. “Watch the surge protector!” shouted a low booming voice. “The entire town is connected through that thing”. Ray rushed over to hug the large loud man. “Pavarotti this is Posh. Posh this is Pavarotti” Ray was beaming with excitement. “Like the opera singer?” Finola asked. “Like the Spice Girl?” Pavarotti answered. Finola instantly liked him, things were getting interesting again.

“Come inside” Pavarotti said. He seemed to sweep them along with his large gestures. “We’ll have tiramisu and wine”. They entered the strange building through a large arched doorway. There were doors everywhere. Long narrow corridors and funny nooks and crannies. It reminded Finola of a large ant farm. She followed Ray and Pavarotti down the main corridor and into a bright kitchen area. There was a bottle of wine on the table along with many little dishes of a scrumptious looking goodie. Finola realized how hungry she was. “Is this the terror my sue?” Ray asked as he held up one of the treats. Pavarotti laughed and nodded yes. “Take a seat” he told them. “I’m sorry about all the chaos; I was playing with my oil paints”. “You’re an artist?” Finola asked. “I’m a psychic who likes to paint” Pavarotti told her. “I’m also a gardener. After we eat I’ll show you the orchids I’m growing. I’ve created a friendly microclimate for them in one of the back rooms”.

Finola settled down and sipped a bit of wine and tasted the tiramisu. They were both heavenly. Things were definitely looking up.

Part 11

Ray was curled up on the giant toad stool shaped chair in Pavarotti’s screening room. He was watching Jurassic Park on the giant screen. The drained tips of half a dozen ice cream cones mingled on the coffee table with piles of popsicle sticks and an empty milk container. “Hey Babe” Ray said as he paused the movie. “Do you want to watch from the start, I’ll make us some lunch and rewind”. Finola was not at all interested in movies or food. She just wanted to make sure Ray was occupied so she could have some time to explore Waterloo and get to know Pavarotti. “No thanks” she told Ray. “I'll splurge later on caviar and poppy seed bagels or maybe a liquid lunch. That wine from last night was really good”. Ray’s attention had already been drawn back to the screen so Finola quietly closed the door and wandered outside.

She squinted in the sun and looked at the diagram Pav had given her last night. He had knocked on her door just as she was falling asleep. “Are you still counting sheep?” he asked. Finola smiled and invited him in. “I wanted to tell you I won’t be here in the morning. I’m heading into Big Town for supplies and if time allows I may stop at the Lincoln Center drag races. Take this diagram, getting around Waterloo can be problematic without directions. Sleep well little one, I should be back before dinner”.

Finola smiled at the thought of Pavarotti at the drag races. She really liked the large loud man and hoped they would become good friends. She went back into the main hall and decided to explore room by room. She checked off the kitchen and the Orchid Room as well as her bedroom, Ray’s bedroom and the screening room. According to the diagram the next room off the main hall was the Photo Shop.

The door to the Photo Shop was heavy and it took Finola a few tugs to get it open. As the door opened the overhead lights came on and Finola found herself in a room full of photographs. Framed photos, poster sized photos, photos in boxes and bags and piled on little tables. Even the ceiling was a photo – a huge landscape of Jamaica with the words One Love running across it. Finola was dizzy from staring up so she turned her attention to a wall of framed photos. There was a dark photo of a man dressed as a grizzly bear; it was interesting because the man was holding the grizzly bear head out toward the camera. Next to that was a photo of a small chubby boy standing in front of a large white house. Across the top of the portico Finola could just make out the words – Maria Callas Orphanage and School of Voice. The little boy looked a lot like Pavarotti. There were lots of nature shots – cactus gleaming in the sun, birds in flight, golden falling leaves. While they were all beautiful it was the personal photos that interested Finola. She saw more photos of the little boy. In one photo he appeared to be part of a wedding party, a sweet boy dressed in crisp linen holding hands with the flower girl. Finola realized that although the little boy appeared again and again none of the other subjects did. Each photo felt like a different place and time.

“Posh where you at?” Finola shuddered. Something was going to have to be done about Ray. “I’ll be right there” she called back. She quickly closed the Photo Shop door and caught up with Ray in the kitchen. “You hungry yet?” he asked. “Check out the frozen pizza. It’s as good as delivery, says so right on the box”. Finola nodded and Ray went about getting the pizza out of the box and into the oven. It was a bit like watching a two year old perform brain surgery. Finola had to look away, it was too soon to alienate Ray all together, she still wasn’t sure what Pavarotti’s deal was. “Where were you?” Ray asked as he struggled with the oven dials. “Just wandering around” Finola said. “Pavarotti won’t be back til dinner, what should we do?” She didn’t want to share the diagram with Ray, she wanted to explore on her own. “We could go out into the back lands” Ray said. “My old jalopy won’t make it but last time I was here Pav had a brand new Ford Fusion. He said I could drive it anytime. It’s probably here; he usually drives the old truck.” Finola nodded in agreement. Getting out into the air made it easier to listen to Ray talk.

“So what should we talk about til the pizza is done?” Finola hoped he hadn’t read her mind. “What are you interested in? Politics. Music. Sports.” “I don’t know much about politics” Ray told her. Shocking thought Finola, probably voted Republican. “I like country music, the lyrics are real, they tell a story. I don’t have to figure anything out, no hidden meanings. John Denver is my favorite.” Finola tried to look interested as she fiddled with Pav’s laptop. There was a spam filter or security program blocking her search. Finally the names of local country bands popped up. “Have you heard of these?” Finola asked Ray. “There’s Invincible Enigma and Swinging From a Star, they’re both local. Star is an all girl country rock group. Where’s Route 77? They’re playing there tonight”. The oven timer chimed before Ray could answer so Finola bookmarked the bands for later.

After lunch Ray and Finola walked across the long back yard of Waterloo and out to the garage. Sure enough the Fusion was there, keys in the ignition. Finola popped the trunk to put away the cooler full of cold drinks. She pushed a box out of the way and barely blinked as Ray approached. “Need help?” Finola shook her head and slammed the trunk shut. She’d go back tonight and check out that box full of manacles.

Part 12

Finola came back from her trip to the ‘Back Lands’ exhausted. Ray’s incessant chatter had rendered her mute and the long drive into what felt like outer space had left her feeling achy and cranky. Cranky was not an emotion Finola handled well. It usually made her relive past traumas and without any mature professional insights into her feelings she was left to be and think and eventually act naughty.

“Do you want to watch some TV?” Ray asked as he muddled about the kitchen making yet another pizza. “The Purple Rose of Cairo is on The Movie Channel or we could just watch the news”. Finola took a deep breath, must control the cranky. “I have a gargantuan headache” she told Ray, “Whoever built those roads should be given the death penalty. Even in Pav’s new car the bouncing was horrible. I guess a redneck county like this one doesn’t have a budget for road work or any other 20th century innovations it seems”. Ray looked insulted. “I don’t think we’re rednecks”. Uh oh – cranky wasn’t being contained. Finola went over to him purring “I didn’t mean you sweets, that’s what struck me so about you; you’re so different from the locals”. Ray was more than soothed, it was so easy. “I feel like a brass band is playing in my head” Finola said as she rubbed his back. “If I don’t take a nap I’ll need to be taken to a convalescent home by morning”. Ray touched her head. “You do feel a little feverish. Maybe I should take your temperature; Pav must have a thermometer around here somewhere”. “Oh not a thermometer!” Finola shrieked, “They are full of mercury. Mercury kills”. The look on Ray’s face was priceless. “Mercury kills?” “Yes silly, why do you think the polar bears are all dead? It’s the mercury”. Ray continued to feel her forehead as though he could gauge her temperature with his bare hands. “I didn’t know thermometers killed the polar bears. I thought the bears were dead because of all the oil people. Ya know, the ones that fat guy talks about”. Finola pulled away from Ray’s touch. “Fat guy?” “Yeah, that fat guy who used to be Vice President. He made a movie. I saw it by accident, thought it was science fiction. Freaked me out to find out it was real. He said that investments in oil was causing the earth to heat up and then he showed all these melting polar bears”.

Finola’s fake headache became real as she turned away from Ray and headed for her room. Pavarotti better come home soon.

Part 13

It had been a full week since Pavarotti left saying he’d return the next day. Finola was worried; she couldn’t sleep and didn’t have much of an appetite. She wasn’t sure if she should be doing something. Was Pav lost, missing, should she call someone? Being alone with Ray only exacerbated the situation. He wasn’t at all concerned and that made Finola crazy. “How can you not wonder where he is?” she asked that morning at breakfast. She was watching Ray try to slice a tomato and hoping the knife won. “Pav is known for being a vagrant” Ray answered. “Vagrant?” Finola repeated, “How can he be a vagrant?” Ray looked confused – still, again, always. “Ya know, he travels around a lot, going no where and every where”. “Oh!” Finola laughed, “He’s a vagabond”. Ray had moved on to burning eggs and just nodded.

After breakfast Finola decided to take a walk down the main path toward the lake. She was astounded that Pavarotti had taken the time and trouble to build his own lake. She took a yoga mat with her and dressed in a bright pink leotard. During her exploration of the main house Finola had discovered a room full of exercise equipment and instructional videos. Ray enjoyed the free weights but Finola had become transfixed by yoga. She played the Maharajah’s Mamas tape several times, partly to learn the positions but mostly for the music. The tape featured several beautiful Hindu women dressed as the Pussycat Dolls. Finola didn’t know much about yoga but she was pretty sure this wasn’t the traditional practice. Ray enjoyed the tape also although his personal favorite was the Pilates video – Lusty and Limber. Finola didn’t want to think about what went on in the room late at night but she imagined all the grunting wasn’t from lifting weights. Anything that kept Ray occupied was fine with Finola. Being alone with him this long in such a secluded place wasn’t easy.

Finola was spreading out the mat when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw something moving down the path toward her. It looked like a floating crocodile but that couldn’t be … “Posh my droll darling” called Pavarotti. “I’m home”. Finola half ran, half skipped to meet Pav. He was carrying a huge crocodile shaped balloon and grinning widely. Finola was surprised to realize just how much she had missed him. Pavarotti tied the balloon to her wrist and gave her a huge hug. “Does Ray know you’re back?” she asked squished against Pav’s jacket. “Yes I found him in the screening room. He was watching Jungle Book and acting out the parade scene”. They exchanged a look and Finola rolled her eyes. “He’s special, isn’t he” she said as she gathered up her things. “Let’s go back to the house; I want to hear all about your trip. Why were you gone so long?” Pavarotti smiled “I have a lot to tell you but first we need to unpack all the supplies I brought back with me, most of it will go into the storage room”. Finola struggled a bit to keep up with Pav’s long strides, he sure moved fast for a big guy. “You spent all this time alone?” she asked his back. “No dear, I visited some friends while shopping and then, on the way back I met the loveliest couple. They’re traveling around the area looking for a young friend of theirs. They’ll be here in a day or two. I gave them the directions and told them they could restock and refuel here. You’ll like them, the wife has the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard and she calls her husband Lovee. How adorable is that?”

“Please don’t turn around” Finola’s voice screamed in her head. She didn’t want Pavarotti to see the look of horror on her face.